Electronics All-in-One For Dummies
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As you design and build with electronic circuits, you’ll invariably find yourself scratching your head trying to remember what color stripes are on a 470 Ω resistor or what pin on a 555 timer integrated circuit (IC) is the trigger input. Never fear! This handy Cheat Sheet will help you remember such mundane details so you can get on with the fun stuff.

Safety rules for electronics

Safety first! Electronics is a potentially dangerous hobby. Any circuit that works with 120 VAC power from an electrical outlet is especially dangerous and could potentially kill you. Here are some safety guidelines to keep you safe as you work:

  • Never work on a circuit while power is applied.
  • Do not connect power to a circuit until the circuit is finished and you have carefully checked your work.
  • If you smell anything burning, immediately disconnect the power and examine your circuit to find out what went wrong.
  • Keep your work area dry.
  • Always wear safety googles.
  • Be careful around large capacitors — they can continue to hold voltage long after they’re disconnected from power.
  • Be especially careful when you solder — a hot soldering iron can easily burn you.
  • Always work in a well-ventilated space.
  • Have safety equipment such as a fire extinguisher, a first-aid kit, and a phone nearby.

Resister color codes

Resistor values are marked with small colored stripes. The first two stripes represent numeric values; the third stripe is a multiplier. The fourth stripe gives you the resistor’s tolerance (how close to the indicated value you can expect the resistance to actually be).

For example, a resistor with brown, black, orange, and gold stripes is a 10,000 W whose actual resistance my vary by as must as 10 percent.

Note that if no tolerance band is present, the tolerance is assumed to be 20 percent.

Color Digit Multiplier (in Ohms) Tolerance
Black 0 1
Brown 1 10 ± 1%
Red 2 100 ± 2%
Orange 3 1 k ± 3%
Yellow 4 10 k ± 4%
Green 5 100 k
Blue 6 1 M
Violet 7 10 M
Gray 8 100 M
White 9 1,000 M
Gold 0.1 ± 5%
Silver 0.01 ± 10%

Ohm's law

Sometimes in electronics you have no alternative but to whip out your calculator and do a little math. The most likely reason for needing to do this is to calculate how much resistance you need for a given situation, how much current a circuit will pull, or how much voltage will be dropped between two points in a circuit. All these calculations can be made using one of the following formulas derived from Ohm’s law:

V = I x R

I = V/R

R = V/I

In these formulas, V represents voltage (in volts, naturally), I represents current (in amperes), and R represents resistance in ohms.

555 and 556 timer IC pinouts

The 555 is one of the most popular integrated circuits (IC) ever made. When you use it, you’ll need to be aware of the purpose of each of the eight pins in the 555 package. You may also occasionally use a 556 IC, which consists of two 555 timers in a single package. You’ll need to be aware of its pinouts as well.

Function 555 Timer 556 First Timer 556 Second Timer
Ground 1 7 7
Trigger 2 6 8
Output 3 5 9
Reset 4 4 10
Control 5 3 11
Threshold 6 2 12
Discharge 7 1 13
Vcc 8 14 14

LM741 op-amp IC pinout

Operational amplifiers are one of the most common types of integrated circuits. The LM741 is a popular single op-amp integrated circuit.

Pin Function
1 Not used
2 V inverting input
3 V+ non-inverting input
4 –V power
5 Not used
6 Vout output
7 +V power
8 Not used

Orientation of the anode and cathode in a typical LED

The following diagram shows the orientation of the anode (long lead) and cathode (short lead) in a typical LED:

electronics diagram of anode and cathode orientation in typical LED

About This Article

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Doug Lowe began writing computer books before Java was invented. He's covered dinosaurs such as COBOL, FORTRAN, and IBM mainframe computers, as well as web programming, Microsoft PowerPoint, and networking. Doug has written more than 30 For Dummies computer guides.

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